SOUNDTRACKING: 5 Minutes With “Mister Lies”, One Of The Waldorf’s Very Last Acts
by Daniel Colussi | There’s certain music that’s best suited to those bleary hours in between night and day, when your vision is gauzy and the world moves in slow motion. Enter Mister Lies, aka Nick Zanca, who’s proven himself to be a true professional at conjuring up the asleep/awake feeling of those lost hours. Working out of his dorm room in Chicago, Zanca’s nocturnal pop is purposely minimal and dreamy but nevertheless carries an emotional weight that’s foreign to the more vacuous forms of genre. The kid’s only nineteen but over several EPs and a new full length, Mowgli, he’s shown himself to be the natural heir to the trip-hop greats of the mid 90s. His show at The Waldorf tomorrow night will mark his first Vancouver appearance, and it’s going be a bitter sweet affair as the venue is being forced to imminently shut down in one of Vancouver’s cruelest fait accomplis. Send The Waldorf out with a bang, or even better — see it off as if in a slow-motion lethargic dream…
Electronic music can be a tricky thing to pull off live. What’s your approach? With the live set, these are songs that I composed in my room, usually by myself, maybe with two or three other people in the room but usually just by myself, and so what I’m trying to do is make these tracks a little bit bigger, especially since they’re going to be on loudspeakers. Also with this set, and I’ve not done this in the past, I kind of revised a lot of my older material and made versions of these songs that are a lot more suited for a dancy environment. There’s a lot of debate and conflict between people about the “liveness” of electronic music. I feel like you’re either doing everything up there or your doing nothing. For me, I’m doing a run of the mill laptop and controller set, but I’m actually deconstructing my songs as opposed to just DJing them. There’s an element…there’s a game about what I’m going to do with the songs. There’s a lot of open opportunities. I won’t play the song the same way twice, which is really exciting.
I get a real British 90s vibe from your music, the kind of trip hop stuff coming out of Bristol in the 90s. Is that scene a conscious marker that you’re after? Yeah? I’ve actually never gotten the word “British” from a journalist before. Granted, people will throw out Massive Attack or Portishead and stuff like that, but they’ll never say that it’s British-sounding — that’s interesting. With this new album, Mowgli, I’m not necessarily going out and saying, like, “I’m making a house track,” or “I’m starting with this specific BPM.” Usually it’ll start with something more melodic; a field recording or something like that. I don’t like reading a lot of press, but when I do, I think that the most rewarding thing is when people say they can’t put a name to what this music is. And that’s OK, because they’ll be people on threads debating and getting into arguments over whether or not a track is chill-step or not!
Is it true that you had mono recently? (laughs) Yeah! I did, I just got over a couple weeks ago, just before I got on tour. I was with some friends down in Jamaica and I was able to kick it down there.
So you make this kind of bleary, slowly shifting, druggy music, and mono probably feels like that, so do you think your experience with mono is going to influence how you make music in the future? Ha! Well if there’s anything I was doing well having mono was working on my live set, and my live set got extremely tight during that process. That and also watching old Hitchcock movies. Also I’d just like to say I’m very honoured that I’m having the chance to play the Waldorf before it closes. I heard about the news yesterday, and I know it started this complete uproar and is going to be this total loss for the Vancouver music scene. I just wanted to say that I’m really blessed that I got to play the room because everyone who I’ve heard about it is singing high praises.
Mister Lies with Cherchez La Femme, Francesca Belcourt and Neu Balance at the Waldorf, Saturday January 12th. Tickets at Zulu, Red Cat and the venue.
Daniel Colussi is the Music Editor of Scout Magazine and a contributing writer to Ion Magazine. A veteran employee of Zulu Records and tuneage aficionado, he DJs on an infrequent basis (about four times a year) and is a musician around town who plays in several ensembles.